January 24, 2013
Suggested in part by a story from Eliot Ness, published after his death, the Brian De Palma film starred Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Robert De Niro. It told the story of the famous group of agents who enforced the 18th amendment (prohibition) for the government. As many of you know this turned out to be a very dark time in US history as many citizens ignored the law and 14 years later the amendment was repealed. If you’re interested in exploring this history further I would encourage you to view the excellent series by noted historian Ken Burns. The three disc five plus hour special for PBS is available through Amazon among many sellers and will be a real eye opener as to what really happened.
La-La Land has re-released the Oscar nominated score as a two CD limited edition set giving you the original motion picture score, the A&M album, and bonus tracks making the total running time 112 minutes.
To set the record straight the themes and variations that you’ll hear sound completely different from the Nelson Riddle score for the 1959 television series starring Robert Stack. Nelson’s theme is big band all the way with active trombones and trumpets. His underscore, while appropriate for the scenes is somewhat non descript. Morricone is another story.
The huge moneymaker is filled with themes which Morricone then uses variations of to make for a very listenable score. This is a score that you’ll easily identify the themes on the very first listen. It is the clever variations used by Morricone that repeated listens will reveal and make for a very listenable score. For example, the end title which opens CD2 is repeated on track six “Victorious” which begins with a tuba solo and dark ominous chords before Morricone segues into the end title music again is a heroic good over evil theme that will stick in your memory. “Al Capone” has an Italian sound which eventually turns into a raucous sounding melody with wa-wa from the trombones and a pounding beat from the drums. “Death Theme” is a lullaby tempo with sax that has his western sound we are so familiar with. It is played as Ness mourns over the death of Malone (Connery). “The Man with the Matches” again comes right out of a spaghetti western with harmonica playing against quiet underscore. “Machine Gun Lullaby” quietly begins with a music box theme slowly giving way to terrifying underscore; the kind of music you just know is a prelude to something bad about to happen. “Mood Indigo,” one of my favorite Ellington pieces is appropriate as a period piece. It is played slow and easy with an outstanding clarinet solo. As violent and graphic the film is “Ness and his Family” depicts the home life that Eliot has. A flute followed by solo violin with very quiet harmony in the background gives one a feeling of comfort.
Jeff Bond, an excellent liner note writer, gives one plenty of information to absorb about everything you want to know about the director, film, A&M release, and the original motion picture release. Sound quality and engineering are quite typical of the sound you would hear from an 80’s film. Unlike some extended releases which can become boring after listening to the fifth variation of the main theme, there is a lot of thematic material covering many styles of music to keep your ear interested for over one hundred minutes. A nice release.
Total Duration: 01:53:12